There has been a lot of discussion about sugar and many new studies have been commissioned to try to shed some new light on what has been a confused and controversial issue. If you remove the refined-sugar from your baking recipes, does that automatically mean your baking is healthy? What about all the other ingredients that contain fats, oils and other sugars?
Well, putting on my dietitian hat, it's hard to come across baking that is considered healthy enough to eat as an everyday thing. However I do believe that there is a healthier way of, excuse the pun, having your cake and eating it too.
The truth is all baking needs some fat and some sugar to taste good, whether the fat comes from butter, oil, avocado or nuts, and the sweetness comes from refined or natural sugars. Fat and sugar play important roles in baking, including tenderising and making the baking lighter. They do this by coating and weakening the gluten bonds within the structure (if the gluten bonds are too strong, you will end up with a tough texture). Fats also help keep baked products moist, giving a good mouthfeel so that it doesn't taste dry.
You can however make your baking more nutrient-dense by replacing empty calorie ingredients like refined white flour and sugar, with natural unrefined alternatives.
Swap refined white flour for wholemeal flour, buckwheat flour (gluten-free), spelt flour or ground almonds (gluten-free), and refined sugar for honey, apple syrup, pure maple syrup or dates. At least these ingredients actually provide some useful vitamins and minerals as opposed to just providing calories (and no nutrition).
My food philosophy is all about putting a healthy spin on food, making everyday recipes more nutritious, while remaining delicious. I'm all for making things healthier (and more nutrient-dense) as long as it doesn't compromise the yumminess of the end product – otherwise why go to all that effort for something you're not going to enjoy?